Well this is interesting. Algiers are an incendiary new outfit who aren't content to sit back and let the revolution slide, instead they bark out politically themed lyrics over music which takes in everything from Northern Soul to grime to post punk. The lead track has been described nail on head as Suicide meets the Temptations and could well be a future classic. Also Matt Tong from Bloc Party on drums and we know how good he is.
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Well they certainly blow the cobwebs away but opener 'Walk Like a Panther' is reminiscent of the person who shouts the loudest in a conversation. Incessant screaming doesn't lead to much if it's not accompanied by a proper invective. What made the title track so impressive when it was teased earlier this year was the way the guttural anger of the delivery was matched by the sort of tune that the Temptations would have been proud to come up with. Its chorus is a classic of any era.
The fact that the remainder of the record fails to match this expectation should not be seen as a matter of complete defeat. 'The Underside of Power' is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments where everything comes together. If early TV on the Radio made Northern Soul this is what it would sound like. Elsewhere we get dark and grimy soul music using industrial rhythms, gruesome guitars and Franklyn James Fisher's tangled coughed up narrative. Tracks like 'Death March' are perfectly vindictive but instead of a catch-all chorus all the track delivers is a slightly out of place synth-line before retreating back to it's dark world.
And this, in effect is where the issue lies. In order to get their message across, Algiers need to make music which will catch peoples ears. But here they are preaching to the converted like the endless echo chamber that is social media. We can shout at each other for the rest of our lives about injustice but you need to get out of your self imposed ghetto. When Algiers do this on the incendiary gospel influenced 'Cleveland' they offer huge amounts of hope. On tracks like 'Animal' they make furious, fuming music at breakneck speed but there's no hook - they repeatedly refuse to let the kind of light in that will ensure their message gets beyond the reach of similarly furious fans of the likes of the Birthday Party. Oddly, the album is at it's most powerful on haunting low key tracks such as 'A Hymn For An Average Man' where Fisher's vocals and the bands anything goes approach results in distinctive forward thinking rock music that will make you ponder awhile before you head back to looking at funny animals.
7/10 Ozzystylez 11th January 2018
From the moment I dropped the needle on the opening groove of "Walk Like A Panther", the devastating opening track to Algiers' sophomore outing, I assumed the vitriol etched into the wax had broken my speakers and would shortly be tearing down the fabric of the society we live in. Algiers, like many of us, have decided that society no longer works, and they are not about to remain quiet about it.
Over the course of twelve incendiary tracks, Algiers rage against the machine. The soulful fury of Franklin Fisher's deep, commanding voice takes centre stage, and is backed by Matt Tong's industrial percussion and dystopian synths courtesy of Ryan Mahan's apocalyptic fingers, which also contribute to some seriously frenetic bass lines (see album closer "The Cycle" for them most exciting example of this!).
Algiers' sound grows like a super nova. Post-punk is firmly at its core, but as its mass increases its gravity pulls in gospel, classic soul, drone and sombre piano balladry and twists them all out of shape, spewing them back out in an uglier, wearier form than the shape that they assumed going in.
As such, a fairly bleak but highly listenable landscape is laid out for the listener to immerse themselves in. Dystopia it may be, but it is not without a sense of hope. Algiers want to see change, and their relentless white knuckle rides make you feel as though they might just see it happen. Side two, for instance, opens with "Cleveland", during which Fisher name-checks seven victims of the justice system, assuring them all that "We're coming back". The expansive and artfully crafted 12" lyric book gives brief histories of each of those names, inviting you to educate yourself and join the fight.
The album's title track is perhaps its only real blunder as it seems at odds with the tone of the rest of record. Whilst its northern soul vibe is more likely to prick the ears of those looking for a toe-tapping single that they can sing along with, it briefly shakes off the claustrophobic sense of dread that the remainder of record makes great pains maintaining. The band could still have named the album "The Underside of Power" as it fits thematically, and the omission of the track would have done nothing to damage the overall whole which is a remarkably powerful work, one that oozes with confidence and a belief that there is still hope for us, even after the apocalypse.
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